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HP, Quantum bundle SAN file system for multimedia

Beth Pariseau, News Writer

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Quantum Corp. have unveiled a product bundle targeted at multimedia applications that the companies said has already been tested in blue chip environments, such as Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., the British Film Institute (BFI) and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), over the last two years.

The system, called HP Media Storage, combines HP's EVA array with Quantum's StorNext SAN file system (from the Advanced Digital Information Corp. [ADIC] acquisition), using HP services to tune both for performance. "This is a soft package," said Will McGrath, general manager of alliances for HP. "It's not a shrink-wrapped bundle -- it's implemented through services."

McGrath said the two companies have been working together for close to three years on the package, and said there are 25-to-30 deployments of the system in big multimedia shops, which include other film post-production houses, online media hosting companies, and government video surveillance operations.

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HP services engineers make adjustments, including changes to the EVA's buffer size, to allow the system to copy larger chunks of data. The Quantum file system can be used to stripe across multiple HP EVAs, or EVAs can be set up as huge single drive feeding into the same file system, all of which require services engagements to set up, McGrath said.

The Quantum file system was chosen because it can be configured for Quality of Service (QoS) levels in order to prioritize video streams, and the Quantum software provides data movement capabilities, from ingest to an archive option with one of HP's tape libraries. "QoS is important," McGrath said. "So you aren't dropping frames from the video stream as you fill up the buffer."

With this announcement, HP is targeting the multimedia market. The company has also appointed Stephen McKenna vice president of HP's communications, media and entertainment unit. According to an HP press release, this announcement also signals the package's first support for Apple Mac OS X and Windows XP connectivity to the Fibre Channel-based EVA arrays.

"With this addition, HP Media Storage now supports all the major operating systems used in post production," the release reads. "HP is committed to helping the entertainment and communications industries meet the technical challenges -- and tap the huge opportunities -- in digital content."

According to Chuck Dages, executive vice president of emerging technologies for Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI), the studio has 500 terabytes (TB) on 10 EVA 8000 arrays, which has been in place through several phases for the last 18 months and helped produce the recent movie Ocean's Thirteen.

The studio uses the system for digitizing film, color correction, and dirt and scratch removal in post production. The three processes must run simultaneously, each at 275 Mbps, according to Dages. He declined to name vendors, but said the studio had considered three vendors besides HP and that a smaller, relatively new player had been brought in for performance testing and flunked before Warner Bros. decided to go with the HP package.

"We actually ended up having drive problems on that other system because of the performance demands," Dages said.

Warner Bros. has a relationship with HP on the print and imaging side of the house after the two companies partnered on film restorations. That's how the studio wound up becoming one of the early guinea pigs for the media storage bundle.

Dages said getting the custom-built system up and running was a little rough in the beginning. "It's sort of a cliché, but we tried to change the tires while running around the track, so to speak," he said, trying to get the system tuned while working on movies at the same time. "It took about two or three movies before we fully expanded and stabilized the system."

Among the adjustments made was the decision to attach film artists' workstations directly to the array rather than having the system serve up files through a separate host, which would have slowed performance.

The system is working smoothly now, Dages said, allowing the studio to move to a higher density 4K digital filmmaking process. At this point Dages said he's satisfied with the stability and performance of the system but is always looking for further scalability as his storage continues to grow.

"The amount of storage I need continually increases, since we save particularly intensive [post-production] jobs on the arrays even when the rest of the film has been archived," he said. "HP can deliver it, but it's a matter of making sure it's integrated as smoothly as possible. As with anything, if we could do it quicker, that would be better."